When gossip website Radaronline.com reported that Mel Gibson's ex Oksana Grigorieva had recorded him using the N-word during a vicious rant, much of the public reacted with shock. Readers left hundreds of comments on Radar and other websites that reported the scandal. But some individuals chose to defend Gibson by arguing that blacks speak the same way as the actor, and if blacks can use the racial epithet, why shouldn't he be able to?
This line of reasoning also emerged when radio host Don Imus referred to a mostly black women's basketball team as "nappy-headed h_s." Some people argued that because rappers make similar remarks about black women, Imus should not have been criticized. It's as if these individuals have never heard the aphorism about two wrongs not making a right. The fact that some minorities choose to speak in racially abusive ways doesn't give whites a pass to do so as well. Furthermore, many blacks, such as Oprah Winfrey, staunchly oppose use of the N-word. And those blacks who do, such as rapper Jay-Z, don't use the word in the manner that Gibson reportedly did. It's one thing to use the word as a way to greet someone considered to be a homie or a friend, such as, "What's up, my n___a." It's quite another to use the word as a way to dehumanize a group of people, which is how Radar Online reports that Gibson did.
Apparently, the actor-director used the word because he disapproved of his then girlfriend's outfit. †Gibson allegedly told Grigorieva, ""You look like a f___ing pig in heat, and if you get raped by a pack of n___ers, it will be your fault."
In the first half of the statement, blacks are likened to animals via the word "pack." In the second half of the statement, the stereotype that blacks are rapists is invoked. And, of course, the entire statement is misogynistic, as it suggests that women who dress a certain way invite others to rape them. In this case, the others are beast-like black men.
Taking the statement as a whole, can anyone argue that this is the way blacks who say the N-word generally use it in conversation? Often such blacks defend their use of the term by arguing that they have reclaimed it, turned it from a negative into a positive. This is certainly not the way the slur was used in the statement attributed to Gibson. The remark was full of hate, serving to animalize blacks and cloak them in stereotype.
I don't agree with blacks who say the N-word, precisely because it's very tricky to reclaim a word with so much baggage. However, to suggest that blacks' use of the word parallels Gibson's alleged use of it in any way is ridiculous.